Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos

  • Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos
  • The Dust of Retreat (Artemis) 2006 

On its debut album, this intriguing Indianapolis ensemble melds touches of baroque art-folk with Richard Edward’s lonely musings. Although the first track is called “A Sea Shanty of Sorts,” Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos are like a less deliberately anachronistic Decemberists fronted by a resurrected Jeff Buckley. Over mostly acoustic instrumentation (melodica, cello, horns, guitar and drums), Edwards favors a crooning vocal that accentuates his imagistic lyrics. The riveting “Skeleton Key” benefits from a terse piano and cello introduction, before Edwards breaks into a lush, Rufus Wainwright-like chamber pop melody. The electric “Quiet as a Mouse” could be a Coldplay song without the Anglo accents. The meandering and the wordless backing vocals occasionally impart a druggie vibe, and some of the tracks have an overly casual, everything-but-the kitchen-sink feeling, but most of the record balances the instrumental experimentation with solid songwriting. Brothers Andy and Chris Fry, on electric guitar and drums, respectively, provide some songs with much-needed instrumental heft. The only problem, other than the album’s late-night languor, is Edwards’ treatment of women. It’s hard to empathize with a narrator who muses, “I did a sick, sick thing to that girl,” over one of his catchiest melodies.

[Michael Zwirn]